Core knowledge and creativity for Learning 2.0

Today was interesting! I met two year 11 Chemistry classes and spent a little time opening up the options of choosing a Web 2.0 tool to produce part of their assessment task. These students have by and large been operating in a Web 1.0 world for school learning – but of course are operating in a Web 2.0 world of social networking with the usual MySpace, Facebook or Bebo.

The challenge for them was to think about creativity and the learning process, and if they dared, to step out of their usual comfort zone and into Web 2.0.

Why did we want to do this? Well the issue is this – that critical thinking skills cannot be learned in the abstract. They always pertain to concrete knowledge of subject matter. But by the same token, absorbing and ‘learning’ some concrete subject knowledge does not necessarily lead to critical thinking or creativity. Learning is a delicate pattern of interconnections!

If you sit boys in rows, if you always ask them to write an essay, produce a poster, deliver a talk, or make a powerpoint then without a doubt the capacity for independent learning or flexible collaborative learning that is deeply reflective just ‘ain’t gonna happen’ easily.

It’s true – we threw these boys in the deep end with a big challenge. Sorry boys!

…….. and I watched some of them run right back to safe shores, others forgot how to paddle or swim and splashed and floundered around (hiding their confusion behind boyish bravado), and others got right in and swam to the new shore across the bay. A few quiet ones spent a lot of time exploring the tools, checking the parameters and began to talk about the nature of learning this way.

We’ll be happy if we see a few wikis, maybe a blog or two, or maybe even a voicethread. This was just an experiment. No student will be advantaged or disadvantaged for either choosing or not choosing a Web 2.0 option. All we hoped for was that for some boys – the naturally curious and creative ones – the opportunity to use a Web 2.0 tool just might make the learning experience fundamentally creative, collaborative, and fun!

I’ve added a new TAB to the blog for the students called Student Tools – Let them fly!

So back to the beginning of the lesson.

What DOES this video prompt YOU to think about creativity and learning?

After all, an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. Have we nullified the capacity of our students to be creative in the very ordinary yet essential daily processes of learning? That’s the message the video gives to me 🙂

Photo: One small piece of machinery

12 thoughts on “Core knowledge and creativity for Learning 2.0

  1. Pingback: Posts of the Month (Not mine!) | Planning with Kids

  2. First of all;

    Judy – A. Miss you! B. We must catch up.

    Dean – I think I might have seen your ASIC program in another life – would like to catch up/skype with you at some point and compare notes re primary/secondary connections and web 2.0.

    John – I hear what you are saying; good teachers have been creative since, well, since there have been teachers! And there are many challenges embracing Web 2.0, and the availability of resources is certainly up there as one of the biggest issues. We are that school. Not a lot of ICT. No whiteboards. Two data projectors. A primary school in a socially challenging area. But, like a number of schools in similar circumstances, we are having a go; podcasting in year one, wikis, blogs, delicious accounts etc. And the children love it. They want to give up their lunch breaks to learn more. And these are often the so-called ‘challenging boys’. As Judy says, ‘like anything, the essential thing is to ground any activity with clear pedagogy, essential questioning, and deep thinking activities.’ Couldn’t agree more. Unless the activities are significant/relevant etc you are just playing around with gizmos.

    The success is down to the teachers making a positive choice to meet the children in their learning world. We don’t have everyone on board, haven’t got everything right and are very much at the beginning of this journey. But we do have teachers willing to have a go – and this number is increasing. Of course having a leadership team on board makes a huge difference. But I believe it is still down at the grass roots level that the changes need to occur whether or not the leadership team are Web2.0 savvy/keen.

    Change is tough and there may be many reasons for teachers’ reluctance to embrace the Web 2.0 world. But walk into a classroom where the students are engaged in pedagogically (hope that’s a word!) sound tasks using Web 2.0 and I would place a wager that most teachers would want to have a go despite all of the challenges that we face. Because, realistically, those challenges are not going to go away for long, long time.

  3. Dean, difficult to argue with your view. There are no doubt a range of levels of interest and ability in using Web2.0 in their classroom. I guess my point was that for lots of years good tecahers have used a range of creative activities, games and teaching and learning options to engage and enliven their students. No doubt Web 2.0 is an environment we must be in and must be using to capture the digital natives. In my recent experience the schools that adopt this have a leadership team committed to it and supportive of the staff as they learn and expand their use of it.Apart from reluctance to learn a key stumbling block in schools I have worked in is a lack of infrastructure to use it; no access to computers other than in labs, no digital white boards, only a couple of rooms wit dadat projectors. I think there are many teachers who would embrace the use of Web 2.0 if they had the facilities to use it at their school.Hopefully the much touted ‘education revolution’ will deliver on bandwidth and hardware and then there really wont be many excuses for not using it.

    I was interested in your point of improved SC and HSC resulst.Is this measurable data or anecdotal? I’d be interested if you could encapsulate the key skills/concepts from your Web 2.0 work that you think has lead to these improved results.I think if we can convince people that as well as engaging kids where they are it actually adds value and improves the learning outcomes it makes an evene stronger case for its ubiquitous use in the and without the classroom.

  4. I am suggesting that may teachers who have the opportunity to engage students in creative activities that appeal to the intrinsic interests of ‘digital natives’ make positive choices not to. Some refuse to even investigate how they might use Web2.0 to improve learning in their classrooms. They do not think ‘read/write’ web the way students do.

    I agree, drama, role playing and film is interesting and creative. If you use tools such as UStream, Second Life, WOW, Alice, Jumpcut et al, then you will greatly increase their interest and skills and the teacher can still draw on experience to do it.

    My point is that the incumbent delivery method in high school is NOT as creative as it could be and that Moores Law applies to edu-tech as much as anything else. I can use paper or a ‘normal classroom’, but I do it in the lead up to them creating, making and doing.

    To me a good teacher will mix up a range of activities. Blogging your day away is just as tiresome as doing a word search.

    At a lecture by Paul Curtis (NAPA Foundation) I attended – he suggests ‘teachers need to learn how to ask questions that they can’t Google’. He went on to talk about the importance students place in technology in their learning. He also said ‘I know what some of you older teachers are thinking … can I hold out till retirement, Im too old to learn this’, concluding with ‘maybe you can, but there is no reason to’.

    I am an advocate of giving students classroom access to the type of technology they use out of class. We need to show them how to use it responsible and to select the best tools for their learning. Don’t even get me started on school firewall policy.

    I agree it isn’t black and white. There are ‘never going to’ teachers , latent teachers (I might if I think its worth while), and those already embedding it in their classroom. As ICT is mandated in all subjects, we just need to recognise that ICT is more than Word, Powerpointing and Googling.

    I didn’t mean to be off hand, I just know it has worked for my students, seen better results in the School Cert and the HSC than previously and the feedback from the kids is positive. It might not work for all, I appreciate that.

    I had no idea what any of this was before I went to a talk by a librarian (Judy!) … I thought as a computing teacher I was pretty switched on … but I wasn’t. I am better tuned in now to how my kids learn than I have ever been before.

    But it is no universal-solution. I just can’t see that in 5 years time, what we have been doing will keep us relevant. Teachers need to accept that we are not going back to read only web, and that the teacher and text book is not their only (immediate access) to information. But a teacher is the best person in the room to guide them through the ever growing barrage of media they are exposed to.

    I am not suggesting I have the all the answers, but I am constantly looking for them.

  5. Some great prospects here for engaging our students and opening the whole learning process to the exciting creative aspects of Web 2.0 apps. I do take some issue with Dean who seems to suggets that unless you are using Web 2.0 you aren’t creative and as a teacher you are either Web 2.0- cool and creative or Web 1.0 dull and addicted to copying from the board and worksheets… I think most good teachers I know have been creative for a very long time; I’ve used, drama, role play, model making, metacognition, mock trials, film you name it to open up creative avenues for kids. I’m not suggesting Web 2.0 isn’t a great thing- but we aren’t all as stodgy and hide bound as some might suggest.There is a lot of grey between the black and white!

  6. keep it simple. In high school remember that for years they have been doing ‘just in case’ learning, copying off the board, filling out worksheets etc., 2 weeks in a term they have probably been asked to knock out a ppt or s publisher … which most do in 2 evenings … so suddenly asking then for a sustained, reflective piece of work … is alien to everything they’ve learned to do (or dodge). Its also unlikely that as many as 10% of your immediate colleagues have any idea what you’re talking about, so it follows that what you are doing is not reflected, so the kids see it as an isolated side-trip – interesting – but not something to adopt as its not valid in 90% of their day.

    Stick to simple stuff and give them a clear scaffold. This is why PBL is a good ‘idea’ in that even for the most clueless, there is a rubric and daily simple tasks. Its too much for them to figure out alone.

    Teacher 1.0 dishes out Worksheet 20056, the fill it out, hand it back. Breaking that status quo means using each tool in a context … it has taken my 15 year olds who are in a computing class a year on the tools, and only now are they beginning to mash them up on their own.

    As the Hill Top Hoods point out ‘Its a Hard Road’.

  7. I just started a similar project with my 8th grade computer class. They have a wiki with lists of tools in different categories to evaluate… Is it easy to use? Can you see any use for it for school, etc…

    I honestly wanted to do this project simply because I cannot keep up with all of the new tools and would like their opinions on what they would like to use in class.

    So far I only have a few kids who have posted their evaluations to the wiki- but I have 27 of them and have asked for 4 evaluations each- so I’m hoping that in a few weeks I will have a good list!

  8. Nice one Judy,

    Thanks for this pertinent reminder and good on you for articulating so eloquently why and how the savvyness that we attribute to kids so hastily can in fact be a little hasty on our part. Kids do need to be challenged in the context of their learning or msn and myspace messages about the next party will be the wall that they’ve already hit.


  9. The great thing about Web 2.0 tools is that you can start them young or start them later on. I’ve seen youngsters in primary school do some great work on wikis and blogs once they have had a good guided introduction. Like anything, the essential thing is to ground any activity with clear pedagogy, essential questioning, and deep thinking activities. As soon as they can write they can blog, wiki or anything else that might inspire them! Digital story-telling is powerful too! And there is almost no limit with podcasting!!

  10. I love the idea of challenging kids and not putting to many boundaries on what is possible. At what age do you think it is appropriate to start introducing kids to some of the Web 2.0 tools you have listed on your new page?

  11. Awesome illustration of what can happen when we no longer have the ability to solve our own problems or think creatively. We think it is funny because watching the video, it is totally obvious what these people should do. I think that when we get creative and our students get creative- we will look back and see how obvious the path to real learning was.

  12. In 1998, my software/design business won the contract to take the ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) website from a static HTML page to a content managed publication (not new now, but back then a rare thing). I recall how impressed the various important suits were in watching the development site evolve and how easy it now was to update information. Lots of nodding and back slapping. It launched and within hours the Commissioner was on the phone yelling for us to take it down and put back the old one.

    Replace it purely because people we getting on the phone and complaining that the navigation had changed, that their old bookmarks didn’t work and because information that was there 10 minutes ago, had been replaced with new information.

    The site didn’t come down, I rode the storm – and ASIC have very large sticks – but within a week or so, he was getting positive comments and back off. The site used that same design and information architecture for five years, until such a time it was taken in house and added to what it is today (

    To me your story is the same experience. I know I’ve seen the same thing in my school repeated last year and this.

    The trick is to remove ‘the shore’ or drop them far enough out that they need to swim to the horizon to look for new land.

    Its great to hear that you’ve got your sleeves rolled up. Joeys will never be the same! … I bet the kids loved it! Creativity is SO important, and should not be placed into ‘creative arts’.

    Gill, the typographer (Gill Sans) is quoted as saying “there are no boring problems, only boring solutions”. Very apt in Classroom 1.0.

    Well done you.

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